Valspar Championship: Jordan Spieth’s putter wakes up, Tommy Fleetwood chasing breakthrough win and more from Day 1
It was a busy day at Innisbrook’s Copperhead before the first round of the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida.
Jordan Spieth is off to a great start thanks to his stick – we’ll cover that in a minute – while Ryan Brem used ace on par-3 17th to climb to the top of the leaderboard in 5th place. Stefan Jaeger and Adam Schenck sit next to Brehm after the 66s match.
Maverick McNeely, who is still looking for his first PGA Tour win, opened from 4 to 67. This is McNeely’s first trip to Innisbrook, but so far he has been impressed by the golf course.
“I heard from so many players that this is just a fantastic golf course,” he said after his round. “I’m a West Coast guy, I played, I usually play heavy western swing, and in Florida it’s usually a little different, but everyone said it didn’t look like a golf course in Florida. I got out of here and saw the pictures. It’s like the golf course I grew up on, Sharon Heights and Stanford in the Bay Area.”
Let’s see if his hometown will lead to success until the end of the road.
Sam Burns, who wants to win outside of Tampa for the third year in a row, started 2 to 69, as did Justin Thomas. Thomas finished one playoff shot last season and 13th in 2021.
“I think for me it’s just trying to put together a good week and a lot of wins are out of my control,” Burns said after signing his card. “So I just try to go out there and play my best and add that at the end.”
If you missed Thursday’s event, don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Here’s everything you need to know about the first round of the Valspar Championship.
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Tommy Fleetwood prepares for title fight
England’s Tommy Fleetwood strikes on the 13th green during the first round of the Valspar Championship at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club on March 16, 2023 in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. Defelis/Getty Images)
Somehow, Tommy Fleetwood still hasn’t added a PGA Tour win to his record. He was a Ryder Cup hero, winning seven times around the world, but still looking for his first Tour victory.
After 3 to 68 years at Copperhead on Thursday, he is in the best position to cross it off his wish list.
Fleetwood got off to a strong start, hitting his first two holes of the day on a well-played par 5 at number 1 and a 172-yard dart in the second for two feet. He would add one more before turning from 3-33.
Fleetwood traded a birdie for 10 for a scarecrow for 11, but bounced back with another lap on par-5 14. He failed to get up and down off the edge at 18 to close out the scarecrow and the 3rd round.
This is not the first time he has played well in Palm Harbor. Fleetwood, who dropped out of the top 30 according to the Players, finished 16th here just last season.
Friday afternoon wave will have to contend with the worst weather. With a serious morning effort, Fleetwood should be at the top of the board.
Jordan Spit’s Stick Finally Collaborated
Jordan Spieth strikes on the ninth green during the first round of the Valspar Championship at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club on March 16, 2023 in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. Defelis/Getty Images)
At the beginning of the week, Jordan Spieth took 114th place in SG: Putting. His Round Thursday could start the road to improving those stats.
Spieth hit 147 feet on the first day, including 58 feet on 15 pair 3 and 31 feet at number 6.
“Being comfortable with the speed control and just with the stick in general, it allowed – even if I didn’t have enough, I felt like I could play in the center of the field and not attack the pins. It’s a different place than I’ve lived since I’ve been trying to get better and better with the stick,” he said.
The Texan was first in SG: entering in the first round.
JT Poston is a two-time PGA Tour winner. He is the 54th best golfer in the world. However, his name is taken.
It’s been a joke for years that he’s the “other JT” on tour because of Justin Thomas. It’s hard to compete with a guy who owns two Wanamaker trophies and rarely leaves the top 10 in the official world golf rankings.
In the first two rounds, Poston and Thomas play alongside Joel Damen. As is tradition in the Valspar Championship, caddies may wear their player’s nickname on the jersey for a week. Poston and his loser Aaron Flener decided to fall for the joke.
Shot of the day
It’s hard to beat an ace!
Friday weather forecast
The pin flag at the 2022 Valspar Championship at Copperhead Field at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. Defelis/Getty Images)
Sourced from windy.com, winds are forecast to reach high teens Friday afternoon with possible gusts up to 30 mph. The temperature is expected to reach 70 degrees.